Sunday, August 28, 2016

Recent J. Crew hits and misses

So ... I ordered some stuff from J. Crew.

I haven't shopped at J. Crew in a while, although I usually flip through the monthly catalog. The thing is, the way they style their clothes is so relentlessly 20-something that it's a bit off-putting. And the web site is even worse, because the styling is just as odd, and the pictures are even smaller. With J. Crew, I really do best going to actual brick and mortar stores. They tend to have a logical layout, and the stuff on the dummies actually looks like something normal people would wear.

Which explains why some of this stuff is fine, and others ... meh or worse.

First of all, there's J. Crew's on-and-again relationship with Liberty of London. I must have opted out of J. Crew emails, because I never heard about a new launch of Liberty collabs for fall, and then, when I happened upon it, a lot of the stuff was sold out. See this print? I love it.



But there were no shirts left in my size. So when I saw this style was available in a 14, I jumped at it.



The thing is ... the fit is off.

Mind you, I've never cared for the popover style in the first place. I have a prejudice against styles that look like the result of trying to save money on fabric or labor. I've always thought the popover was J. Crew's way to save manufacturing costs, because labor costs would have to go down when you don't need to sew on as many buttons or bind as many buttonholes.

What I hadn't realized is that the popover is a sneaky way to scrimp on fabric, too. The size 14 popover fits nothing like a J. Crew size 14 Perfect Shirt or Boyfriend shirt. It's a bit shorter, is cut straight up and down with no darts or waist indentation, and uses less fabric through the torso. This makes it just snug enough to look both dowdy, because it's shapeless, and vulgar, because it clings unattractively.

If you are either an hourglass or an apple, this will probably end up being magically unflattering.

Back it goes.

The leopard print merino shell and matching cardigan were wins, however. The wool is thin, but not as ridiculous thin as the J. Crew "tissue-weight" cashmere, (which again, strikes me as a cost-savings device disguised as a feature. "Who needs those old-fashioned heavy, warm, substantial, luxurious cashmere sweaters! Buy our tissue-weight in new modern colors with cool names like "pool" and "damson" and look really great until your sweater pills and then develops mysterious holes!")



The Drake's for J. Crew pink silk Perfect Shirt is nice--although the tigers ended up upside down across my chest, and for the money, I think I'm entitled to tigers that are right side up. The pink veers slightly towards a dusty orchid shade, and the orange beasts are a soft coral, so it's not quite as splashy in-your-face as you'd think. The silk is OK quality--not great, but good, and the fit is good, with no unseemly gapping at the bust. The silk screening isn't as detailed as the pants I'm about to talk about, which is really too bad.

OK. These are these pants.

Collection Drake's for J. Crew pants in Midnight Unicorn

They too are silk, and the print is awesome--kind of a combination of a guy's hunting-themed tie and the unicorn tapestry at the Met. They seemed both festive and kind of quirky, but in a good way.


But the fit is bizarre. The 14 was a little loose in the waist, and there was a bit too much fabric in the thighs. Maybe with a slimmer leg, they would've worked. I don't know--the tailoring just seemed off.

Also, these pants have an obviously covered elastic waistband, which, if you're not doing a J. Crew half-tuck, means that you'd have to wear a belt--or risk looking like an outtake from People of Walmart. Which, no. Hidden elastic waistbands? Not for a pair of $200 pants.

And of course, I tried on the pants last. While I was still wearing the leopard print twinset. I can't even begin to describe the tolerant, amused, yet trying-incredibly-hard-not-to-laugh looks my husband and son had on their faces when I came downstairs to ask them what they thought.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Is your skin dry or just dehydrated?

I've mentioned that I've been experimenting with some K-Beauty practices. One of these is double-cleansing. I've become a huge fan because, although I frequently skip putting on makeup, there are very few days where I'm not wearing sunscreen. Maybe when I'm trapped indoors, in February, with the flu. At all other times I have SPF30 or higher on my face. And these high SPFs take some removing, as is only right.

I mean, if the things are water-resistant and sweatproof, they're designed to stick around. But getting them all off at the end of the day is the secret to happy skin free of milia.

The other Korean thing I've been doing is layering my moisturizers, using a variety of K-Beauty (or K-Beauty-inspired) essences, toners, serums, and whatnot.

K-Beauty's baffling jargon


Even though I've purchased two books about K-Beauty and regularly haunt the Asian Beauty subreddit as well as various K-Beauty blogs, I'm still a newbie.

K-Beauty has a steep learning curve partly because the terminology is different. For example, when Korean companies say "toner," they don't mean a pore-puckering astringent designed to blast every bit of sebum off your face.


What are essences?


Essences are thin, watery products that you apply after cleansing and before any additional moisturizing. Some people use a cotton pad, others pour a few drops of the softening lotion into their palms and pat it in. That's the approach I use, because I'm damned if I'm going to spend $90 on a bottle of do-good water only to have most of it end up on a cotton pad in the wastebasket. 

What good do they do?


I could quote a ton of vague-sounding language derived from bottles, ads, books, and blogs, but I'll spare you. Some of these lotions contain active ingredients designed to treat wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation, but basically, these products are designed to hydrate the skin without occluding it. For years, I've been treating my skin as though it were incredibly dry. I've been lavishing all kinds of rich creams onto it. But it turns out it responds very well to these watery Korean potions.

Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion, 5 oz. $96


I started this particular skin care adventure with a sample size of this Estee Lauder product.

Then I branched out. Eudermine lotion is the oldest product produced by Shiseido. It has been around since 1897. I figured if it was the first, and it's still in production, it must be good stuff.

Time travel, Shiseido-style.

Just look at that bottle. This is beauty history, people!

Eudermine Revitalizing Essence, 6.7 oz. $79

Eudermine is a watery, slightly-silky-feeling lotion that smells faintly of peonies. Using it is pleasant, although that glass stoppered bottle is extremely non-travel-friendly.

And then, because it is highly touted by Asian beauty bloggers, I picked up a bottle of Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence.

Missha Time Revolution Intensive The First Treatment Essence, 5.3 oz $26.37

Missha is supposedly very good at coming up with dupes for other, much more expensive products—in this case, an SKII essence that retails for $39.60 an ounce. Which is twice as expensive as the Estee Lauder product I tried.

So OK. I've managed to try essences from three different countries, which sell for three different prices. Here's what I've learned:

1. First of all, like double-cleansing, this whole essence business started in Japan, and Korea needs to get over itself.

2. Essences make a very good moisturizer particularly if your skin isn't as dry as you think it is. Even if you have dry skin, you can use an essence as a hydrating first step, then seal in the moisture with a more occlusive cream. (I'm keeping this invaluable advice in mind for when the heat goes back on.)

3. The entrance of Estee Lauder into the field means that Western companies have caught on to the trend, are producing these products, and starting to market them to Americans. Naturally, Estee Lauder is charging Estee Lauder prices for these items, which means they are stupid expensive.

4. Other companies will soon get busy playing catch-up with Estee Lauder. Look for similar items to be marketed at the drugstore, if they haven't already gotten there. Recently I spotted an advertisement for a Neutrogena line which has been popular in Asia for a while and is finally being introduced here.

It's about time!






Friday, August 19, 2016

Almost (but not quite) finished with my Nordstrom haul

I got this dress.

Eliza J V-Neck Crepe Sheath Dress


Which, I KNOW. It's just so ... dull. Navy blue. Tasteful. Ladylike.

One of my friends commented recently about my penchant for solid colored dresses. And come to think of it, my closet actually does resemble a box of knee-length solid-color crayons in beige, brown, gray, black, and now navy.

The thing is, I really like dresses like this. First of all, I'm short-waisted, and a solid color lengthens my torso.


Second, a boring dress like this is crying out for a scarf. Which I have been known to accumulate collect.

Third, back in the olden days, before there was fast fashion and Forever XXI and H&M and blouses that cost less than lunch at Panera Bread, buying clothes was a big deal. Clothes were expensive. So you bought stuff that was versatile.

This means instead of having a closet overflowing with adorable individual pieces: a mint green halter top with cherries printed on it, white jeans covered with studs, purple suede mary janes—and ending up with nothing to wear, you picked your favorite basic colors and had a lot of black (or brown or navy or beige or gray) pieces that you could coordinate with different belts, jewelry, cardigans, and scarves. You assembled little ensembles. It was creative.

It sounds like I'm trying to explain the joys of cuneiform—at least, it does when I try to impart this wisdom to my daughter.

At any rate, I bought it for $106, and IMO it's still a good buy at $158. It comes in four colors. I'm eyeing the pine green one.

On top of that, here's the thing about gazelle-like models. Simple little dresses like this look a lot better if you can accessorize them a balcony or some badonakadonk.

See what I mean?

I am sadly lacking in badonakadonk, but I have a balcony and a stack of Hermes scarves. We're good.




Wednesday, August 17, 2016

PSA: One-day flash sale at Ulta

I don't tend to blog much about one-day sales, because I'm not organized enough, but this one popped up in today's promotional emails, and it's really pretty good.

In case you don't already own all the eyeshadow in the world, the Urban Decay Vice Ltd Reloaded palette is on sale.



Sheet masks are buy two / get one free. 


Real Techniques brushes are on sale


The one on the bottom with the gold handle is a blush brush, and I use mine all the time.

If you like Philosophy products, this is a good deal


Further inducements to think about shopping at Ulta


  • Recent new-to-Ulta brands include Estee Lauder, Julep, Lancôme, Shiseido, and Stila. I, for one, am thrilled to discover another source of Shiseido's amazing facial cotton, and don't think I'm not excited over the possibility of building up points that will actually do something for me when I pop for my expensive Estee Lauder moisturizer.
  • Ulta offers so many gifts-with-purchase and deals that it's hard to keep them all straight, and I certainly don't want to bore everyone by listing them here. Check out the eBates Ulta info for details.
  • Unlike Sephora's VIB program, (which IMO is a big meh) Ulta's perks program gives you cash back.
  • Free shipping with a $35 purchase
  • And yes, I advocate using eBates, which is currently offering a 3 percent rebate.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

More Nordstrom Anniversary Sale haulage--the clothes.

Before we get into it, remember, I bought boring shit. OK?

So OK, there were the bras. Which I totally wish were still in stock in my size at that price, but oh well. Then there were some jeans. I've been whining about how I need new ones. My last pair expired from a terminal case of chub rub, so I popped for new ones.

'Diana' Stretch Skinny Jeans (Blinding)


I can hear you yawning from here. But hey—here's something exciting—some cropped pants!

I finally figured something out about cropped pants. I mean, I couldn't figure out why they had become such a Thing, because, really, is the sight of everyone's ankles such a treat?

But then it dawned on me—when your pants are cropped, you can wear any shoe you want. Heels, flats, flatforms, Birkenstocks—whatever your ride, a cropped pant will work. Admittedly, in a leg-stumpifying, awkward-flash-of-ankle way, but that's the price you pay for not having to buy pants in two different lengths depending on whether you plan to wear them with heels or flats.

Anyway, I've had good luck with Lafayette 148 New York, so I ordered these


'Irving' Stretch Wool Pants


They're OK. Not great, but good enough. I mean, my ass is not the stuff of poetry, so pants are never going to look amazing ... but the fabric is nice--wool with a little spandex to keep it from sagging. I'm concerned about the length, because it's possible that on me, they look like normal pants that are too short. I JUST DON'T KNOW. Being old and out of it really sucks at times.

And finally, this dress. Which, I know. St. John knits—how bougie old lady. But I can't help it. First of all, when it comes to the Gilmore Girls, I'm Team Emily.



Second, Mr. Buxom and I have decided to go back to Europe this fall--Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Munich—and I'll need something to wear to see Figaro at the Vienna State Opera. And as my post about meeting Hillary Clinton makes clear, those St John knits are eminently packable. I plan to wad this dress up into a ball, stuff it into a carry-on, and then, voila! Dazzle the audience at the opera.



P.S. Notice how the dress is plain over the bodice and gets busier towards the hem? Those St. John people are not stupid.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

No thanks, I'm just looking

I haven't even finished telling you about the unbelievably dull stuff I bought at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, yet here I am, browsing through their cosmetics and skincare section. Why? Because Lisa of GWP Addict informed me that Nordstrom was offering a new deluxe sample bag.

I know what you're thinking. "Again with the samples????? Didn't you just unload these

Clockwise from top right: two plastic drawers + one large tray of samples, with a couple of sheet masks

on the girls last May?"

Yes. Yes, I did. But I just wanted to see whether I could even be tempted. Because when I got out of the shower yesterday, I was struck by the sheer mass of beauty products on my bathroom vanity. In my attempts to really educate myself about Korean beauty products, I've done serious damage at Sephora. And Nordstrom. And Masksheets.com. And joined a K-beauty subscription service. I also picked up a few products in Prague and Vienna.

I'm in replacement-only, one-in/one-out mode, and my purchases, if any, will be limited to nail polish remover, cotton pads, and shampoo.

That's enough about you, Poppy. What's up at Nordstrom?


Not much. The free deluxe sample bags are full of Clinique anti-acne products and perfume vials--exactly the sort of thing I don't need.

Meh.

Even I can't get worked about a gift bag like this. But let's pretend I were. What exciting new products could I find?

Let's search for Nordstrom's newest products and see what's up ... OK, the most recent Tom Ford fragrance? Sorry, Tom, I'm not sophisticated enough for you.

Erno Laszlo skincare sets? Good lord, how retro. I think his black soap was a thing in the 1970s. Does anyone still USE this stuff?

And then there's this

Foreo Luna mini 2 compact cleansing device. In (and I'm not making this up) Pink Pearl.

which looks the kind of sex toy I'm far too prudish to know how to use.

And just look at this facial scrub/mask stuff.

Twenty bucks says it's hand-crafted in Brooklyn, or some such shit. 

I'm betting Aster & Bay's No. 1 grains are made of artisanal pickles and mustache wax.

Onward! Lancôme's latest mascara



looks like you use it to clean toilets.

Their new eyeliner

makes me think of


Finally, there are patchology's lip patches

Which ... OK, I'll use an occasional sheet mask. But honestly, drink enough water, watch out for super-matte lipsticks, and use balm. Do we really need a separate product to stick on our lips?

I mean, you start here




and before you know it, you've become more high-maintenance than a Palm Springs putting green.



So thanks for the offer of the gift bag, Nordstrom ... but I'll pass.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

If it weren't for Nordstrom, I would totally fail at life

Before I get onto the matter of what I bought at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, allow me to take a minute to give them a shout out for their awesome return policy.

It lasted less than a month
During my recent trip to Europe, one of the things that kept me going during my many museum/cathedral//palace visits was tracking the number of steps I was taking every day.  One day I reached an all-time high of over 17,000 steps. I was exultant. The next day, I took even more steps. Yay, me!

Then my fitbit crapped out.

When I got home, I remembered that I bought this Fitbit from Nordstrom. Did you know that the Nordstrom website has instructions on how to return stuff, if, like me, you threw out all their packing materials. You can print up a new shipping insert and a postage-free mailing label. They suggest that rathern than exchanging an item, you return the old one and order a new one, because it's faster. So I ordered a replacement FitBit and used the box it came in to mail the broken one back.

I love comparison shopping as much as the next tightwad, but at times like this, it's nice to have a store that keeps its customers happy.

And now to the Anniversary Sale. Before we left for Europe, I ordered some very basic stuff. I mean, basic. This included some new bras. My all-important maxim (which in 12 years of blogging, I may have forgotten to mention) is this: if your bra has been washed so many times that you need to use a magnifying glass or stand in really good light to read the style number and size on the label, you need a new one.

So I bought these from Wacoal--my usual style, but in different colors.

Not my color. Also, not me.

I selected pale pink and a charcoal gray, which for mysterious reasons, they call "platinum." I wasn't crazy about the colors, but price was right, and when I tried them on HOLY MOLY THE DIFFERENCE.

I won't say my boobs were bouncing and behaving, but the fit and function of these bras was so perfect that it cured their jetlag. I immediately rushed to the website to scoop up more of these wondrous, marked-down beauties. Only to discover that the only sizes left were 44H and the like.

For the first time in my life, a store has a comfortable, attractive bra, and it's on sale—but it doesn't come in my size because I'm too small. Go ahead, wrap your brains around that little conundrum. I'm off for a walk with my replacement Fitbit.